AJ continues to enjoy trips to the beach in Baja. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Walks are shorter, monkey playing really doesn’t exist, sleeping together has ended. The love, though, well that is unbreakable.

The changes have taken some getting used to. That’s what happens as we age. We slow down. Dogs are no different. I’m just thrilled to be celebrating another birthday with AJ. She turns 18 today.

I don’t really know how many miles AJ gets in each day because she does a good deal of walking without me. She has this large, beautiful yard to roam around in in Todos Santos. I’ll be sitting on the patio with my friends Jill and Robert, who own the property, and we laugh at AJ making her laps around their house. It’s like she is patrolling the grounds.

About every other day if not more I put her leash on to go for a walk down the arroyo. Most of the time she is off leash once we are through the gate. Her nose is one thing that still works well. She’s a good sniffer. Sight and hearing, well, those diminish a little more each year.

In Tahoe during the summer and fall we went for longer walks. I think the added exercise in the yard in Mexico means she doesn’t want/need to go as far with me. I guess I’ll test that theory about the length of her walks when we head back north.

AJ has a monkey that has been her favorite toy since I’ve known her. Yes, there has been more than one monkey. It sits against the wall collecting dust. The desire to chase or catch it in the air no longer exists. Well, maybe the desire is there, but the energy certainly isn’t. I just can’t get rid of it, though.

AJ outside the casita in Todos Santos. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The hardest thing to get used to in this last year is that Miss Audrey Jean no longer wants to sleep in my bed. When I put her up there she is immediately ready to jump off. The fact that she did so before I could catch her freaked me out so I don’t want to try again. She makes no effort to get up there. No reason other than selfishness to keep trying.

I miss her cuddles; I even miss her taking up the entire bed and leaving me a sliver of mattress.

Now I lay on the ground wherever she is—in her bed, the gravel, the patio, the concrete floor—to hug on her. She practically purrs during neck rubs.

Kisses from her are rare. But she still gets excited when I return even I’ve just been out playing tennis. Before leaving I always tell her how much I love her. We have lots of conversations throughout the day.

We’ve had the talk—more than once. I trust her to let me know when enough is enough. For now, though, we’re going to celebrate the start of her 19th year. My niece left a can of tuna, so that will end up in her bowl. I haven’t had French fries since being back in Mexico, so that will be another treat for both of us. It’s her favorite human food.

We will go for a walk. We’ll talk about her mommy Joy; after all she is the reason AJ is in my life. Joy died in August 2012. That’s when this greyhound, yellow Lab and who knows what all else came to live with me. It’s been an adventure; one I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I do.

While it’s AJ’s birthday, every day she is with me is a gift.

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